Well golly, just where did that whole month go?
I’ve been busy — apparently quite busy. But I’ve had some posts cooking away in the back of my mind, and I’ve finally found some time to sit down and write one up!
A while back my local butcher changed hands again, and when it opened back up I found a new section for bulk meats at the end of the counter. Woohoo! No doubt they would previously have done me a bulk meat deal (they also do whole or half carcasses, if you’ve the storage space for that kind of thing, for example), but having the specials lined up right there in front of me made the price, and the quantity less overwhelming.
I didn’t realise that I could get a whole piece of chuck and not have it be some enormous thing I wouldn’t be able to process! Here is my piece of chuck cut up into cubes for stewing, and portioned into boxes (there were six portions, but only five are shown):
Stewing beef, cut up and ready to freeze.
Each of these portions will make one large family meal of slow cooked stew (about five or six adult serves)!
There is 410 grams of meat (approximately) in each box, after most of the fat has been cut away (that’s less than 1 lb for those who measure pounds and ounces). Which is why this post is about eating less meat!
If you’ve been wondering how to cut down on your meat consumption, and increase the amount of vegetable in your diet, then making a meat and vegetable stew is a great place to start.
- Buying your meat in a bulk piece is cheaper, and doesn’t take long to prepare into cubes. (It took me about half an hour to do this prep.)
- Once you’ve prepped the meat, it’s so quick to prepare a stew. I find I don’t even need to defrost the meat before adding it to the pot.
- You need to be able to store your uncooked meat in the freezer, so make sure you have space before you buy in bulk!
- The key to making this meat go further is to use lots of vegetables.
Here is my pot of stew, bubbling on the stove:
Hot beef stew, in my largest pot
The veg I threw into this one included:
- an onion
- two small sweet potato (kumera)
- three or four potatoes
- pumpkin (winter squash)
- 2 carrots
- one whole large capsicum (bell pepper)
- [Update] I totally forgot tomato! Silly me. 3-4 chopped tomatoes, or 1 tin “whole peeled”
It ended up being a little bit like a Goulash, so I added some sweet paprika as spice (about a tablespoon), and cracked pepper (from my grinder – not a large amount).
When I’m starting the stew I always begin with a generous slug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and some chopped onion. This I sizzle until the onion starts going translucent, then I add about a quarter cup of plain flour and stir it through. This makes a kind of onion-y “Roux” which will thicken the stew when I add liquid.
Toasty Ciabatta curtesy of my apprentice baker friend!
I then add my meat (it wasn’t frozen this time because I’d just prepped the batch, but subsequently I’ve added frozen and just teased pieces off the lump with a fork as it starts browning). If I’m not in a hurry I will let the meat brown up a little, but it’s not uncommon for me to skip over this step!
Next I add in all my chopped vegetables, and stir everything around a bit until it all looks combined.
Then I add liquid (in this case, a quarter cup of leftover red wine and some hot vegetable stock). How much liquid? Good question! I think it depends on your pot and how much veg you put in. I let the liquid come up around the contents, but not ‘cover’. Basically, veg and meat pokes up out of the liquid.
Fresh picked broccoli florets cooked on the side.
I boil water to make my stock using stock powder, because it’s quick and easy. That way when I add the liquid to the pot it is already hot, and doesn’t take too long to start to simmer. I also scrape the bottom of my pot to ‘deglaze‘ it (ie. get all the tasty browned meaty bits incorporated into the stew, and to stop it burning onto the bottom).
With chuck steak pieces, you want to simmer it for at least an hour and a half. I tend to let it go for a while and check it every now and then. Don’t simmer too hot or the liquid will go runny instead of thick! I find that mashing up a bit of the pumpkin thickens it up nicely, though.
When it is ready, serve it up with a small amount of toasted bread and some greens on the side. If you prefer to add greens directly, try some fresh Kale or Spinach in the hot stew about two minutes before serving! Yum! And a squeeze of lemon, maybe. Mmm.
All plated up!